White House Backtracks, Says Pandemic Unemployment Boost Might Not Expire in September After All


The Biden administration on Friday backtracked on previous comments signaling that enhanced weekly federal unemployment benefits would be allowed to expire as scheduled next month.

During her daily media briefing, White House press secretary Jen Psaki indicated that President Joe Biden has left open the possibility of extending federal unemployment benefits — even though a Federal Reserve report shows those benefits are encouraging people to sit out of the workforce.

As the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday that the economy added about 943,000 jobs in July, attention at the briefing turned toward those benefits.

“Given the strength of today’s jobs numbers, has the president decided that he’s not going to seek to renew the beefed-up unemployment benefits when they expire next month?” Nancy Cordes, CBS News’ chief White House correspondent, asked Psaki.

“I know earlier this summer he said that it would make sense to let them lapse, but that was before the delta variant really took hold,” Cordes said.

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“There has not been any decision about this at this point,” Psaki said.

“He’s still deciding whether to ask to renew them, whether to seek to renew them or not?” Cordes said.

Do you think it's time to let the enhanced federal unemployment benefits expire?

“Correct,” Psaki said. “At this point, they’re expiring at the end of September, nothing has changed on that front.”

But the White House press secretary added that “a final decision has not been made.”

Biden in June, reacting to May’s jobs report, indicated that allowing the pandemic-era benefits to expire made sense. The president was asked about the $300 weekly supplemental income from the federal government for the unemployed.

“It’s going to expire in 90 days,” Biden said Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, The New York Times reported. “That makes sense.”

Some have argued the benefits are an incentive for people to remain unemployed and in some cases earn more than they would while working. But the Friday jobs report is an indication that a lot of people are returning to the workforce after a year in which millions of Americans lost jobs due to shutdowns and other strains on business related to the country’s reaction to the coronavirus pandemic.

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Reuters reported that as of Friday, the country’s unemployment is at the lowest level since the pandemic began, 5.4 percent.

However, it said, the economy is still 5.7 million jobs short of where it was in February 2020.

Biden took a victory lap on Twitter on Friday, portraying the latest jobs numbers as evidence that his agenda is working.

“More than 4 million jobs created since we took office. It’s historic — and proof our economic plan is working,” the president’s account said.

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Johnathan Jones has worked as a reporter, an editor, and producer in radio, television and digital media.
Johnathan "Kipp" Jones has worked as an editor and producer in radio and television. He is a proud husband and father.